Productivity

Are You a Simplifier or an Optimizer?

The way you approach the multitude of tasks in your life makes all the difference between being a champion of effectiveness or a casualty of complete exhaustion.  If the latter sounds more like your description, you may be making life unnecessarily hard.

Simplifiers vs Optimizers

According to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, a simplifier is someone who will choose the straightforward (sometimes easier) way of completing a task, even when he or she could have achieved better results with more effort. An optimizer, as he defines it, is someone who will take the extra effort to get better results, even at the risk of unexpected contingencies sending the whole plan south. (See Scott’s book – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.)

The Uncomplicated Path

A simplifier leaves on time for a meeting, arrives at least 5 minutes early and uses that waiting time to check his or her emails on a smart phone. Someone who simplifies their tasks and goals will take the most direct path towards achieving them. It’s not automatically the fastest route or the strategy with fewer or easier steps, but it’s the course least likely to have hassles along the way.

Because of its straightforward nature, it often does turn out to be the fastest or easiest option.

The Ambitious Path

An optimizer combines tasks that pair well together – either by proximity or likeness – and that, when executed well, will lead to higher levels of achievement and efficiency. An optimizer leaves on time for a meeting, but gets gas and drops books off at the library en route, in order to save time later. He or she may make phone calls at red lights or check share prices on the toilet.

In essence, an optimizer sucks every grain of sand from their hourglass, until its nothing but an empty shell.

When the optimizer’s strategy works, it’s a buzz. To clear essential tasks off your list and still get to your date in the nick of time – it makes you feel like a supercharged, productivity dynamo. That’s what makes it so compelling.

But when unpredicted glitches upset the delicate equilibrium required by optimizing – it’s stressful and deflating. Not to mention relationship-damaging.

For the record, I am an optimizer who is schooling herself in the art of simplicity. It’s not exactly a fine art, but it takes quite a bit of practice.

Driven By ADHD

I hypothesize that many ADDers are optimizers. We see opportunities to maximize productivity and we take them. Sometimes it makes sense. Getting gas on the way to the grocery store is efficient. Getting gas on the way to your wedding, however, is stupid. The problem is, we don’t always make the correct distinction.

Sometimes when we are “optimizing” though, it’s because, ultimately, we are terrified being bored and having to wait for something or someone. Have you ever heard of  “just-one-more-thing syndrome”? As in:

“I still have 5 minutes. I’ll just do one more thing (or two, or three), then I’ll go.”

It’s the effect of optimizing, but the cause of much tardiness and white-knuckle fever. One-more-thing can be efficient, but then again – it might not be. The passing of time, how long something will take, potential interruptions… all of these things are estimated by great optimizers. Most of us aren’t great estimators.

Which Approach Should You Take?

Adams suggests that if you can’t predict all the variables in a situation (red lights, traffic stops, old ladies crossing the road), choosing simplicity over optimum is a better choice.

But if punctuality doesn’t matter, optimizing your tasks may be the way to go. Sometimes, it may be your only choice, like if you run out of gas on the way to your meeting.

On a whole, however, I think most of us could benefit from learning the art of simplicity. Recently, I started working with a man whose life has been turned upside down from the hot mess created by not dealing with his ADHD challenges earlier. Let’s just say his life has suddenly become very complicated by court dates, immigration procedures, and financial crisis. It’s overwhelming.

His life has never been more complicated and there certainly are no simple solutions. And yet – there are. In fact, he has never needed simplicity more than he needs it now.

The most monumental of tasks can always be broken down into simpler steps. My client can’t control the judicial system. He can do what it expects of him: abide by his conditions and show up to court on time. He can’t control immigration procedures. But he can clarify the first step in the application process. He can’t reverse his financial problems. He can start by dealing with one debt.

There’s a Time for Both

Optimizing is about getting as much done as possible, with maximum impact. It’s an alluring tactic when you have a lot to do. Plan your tasks carefully and be mindful of the time each will take. Prioritize them according to their importance and urgency and be prepared to let some of them go. Ask yourself if each task is a “must be done” or a “nice to be done”, then prioritize accordingly.

Sometimes, you are at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. You can only optimize so much. The compulsion to get things done, when you can’t get things done, will only make you impatient, frustrated, and wear you down. Let it go and simplify.

Simplifying turns a problem or a goal into a series of manageable challenges. It removes overwhelm by focusing on what is possible: show up, do the work, repeat.

Pay attention to how your days usually go. Are you trying to fit in as much as possible, sometimes to the detriment of your (or someone else’s) sanity? Or are you streamlining too much, and not getting enough done? Maybe you need to up your game.

Adams makes inferences that people are either an optimizer or a simplifier – but I think it’s possible to be both, depending on what the situation calls for. It takes a little awareness and self-reflection, but learning to shift between these two approaches can bring more calm, focus and productivity to your day.

For more about this and some surprisingly profound insights from the cartoonist himself, check out Adams’ book here.

In the spirit of “cartoonistry” (its a word, albeit not a real one), I thought I would commission a cartoon as the image for this post. A BIG THANKS goes out to my 8-year-old daughter “Zee” for her excellent work – love ya sweet cheeks! xxx

Focus

Read Like a Pro and Enjoy It (Even If you’ve Always Hated Reading)

 

Someone once flippantly said to me…

“We all know ADDers don’t read…”

Not only is this a gross generalization, but it’s also incorrect. I know many ADDers who read all the time, often 3 or 4 books at a time.

But many people with ADHD do struggle with reading. It’s hard to concentrate when your mind is constantly wooed by distractions, and the itching restlessness of an unsettled internal engine urges you to go do something else.

It makes reading complicated, fatiguing, and boring for us wistful souls.

On the other hand, reading can be interesting and exciting. It takes you away from the present. It helps you learn things to move forward and get ahead in life. It may even help you get a date or make a lot of money. (Disclaimer: Results may vary from reader to reader)

Most importantly, though, reading empowers you. There’s a reason the oppressors of yesteryear didn’t teach their indentured servants to read:

Reading frees you.

I don’t have to point out the obvious. Of course reading is good for you, they wouldn’t teach it on Sesame Street if it wasn’t. It’s like vegetables for the mind.  But if, like artichokes, you hate reading, even though it’s good for you, it could be because you are doing it wrong.

I’m going to show you some better ways to read – ways that will make it easier for you. It’s more likely to be something you enjoy if it’s not such a struggle.

1. Read like a Triage Nurse

When you show up to an Emergency Department with a sucking chest wound, the nurse doesn’t ask when your last bowel movement was. Why? Because constipation is unlikely to have caused the hole in your sternum, unless you were straining particularly hard.

Likewise, all the words in a paragraph are not relevant. Most words in a book are fluff. They give the publishers a product bigger than a pamphlet to sell. Most of what you read is filled with a lot of … fillers, this post included. Most books can be condensed to beef jerky-sized renditions simply by cutting out a lot of the fillers.

The point of reading is not to imbibe words with your eyes – it’s to gain an understanding of a concept. Try scanning and reading only the most important words and phrases and skip over the rest. I promise you’ll still gain the concept – no ifs, ands or buts.

 

 

2. Read like a Race Car Driver

Reading can feel like a slow, laborious process, especially when you have to repeatedly go over the same material to remember what was written.

Simply speeding up can engage your mind in the same way that whipping around corners Mach one makes falling asleep at the wheel difficult.

ADHD brains are built for speed. They tire out when they’re forced to go too slow. Try speeding up and see if that helps you concentrate better. Skipping over the filler words, as mentioned, helps you gain momentum.

 

3. Read like a Crime Scene Investigator

 

Admittedly, I don’t know any crime scene investigators. But I imagine they don’t scrutinize one piece of evidence in totality before collecting the rest.

Most likely, they gather all the evidence, examine each closely and then, perhaps, go back and look for more clues (CSI aficionados – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

They look at the “leads” and make conjectures about how they fit together.

Before you dive into a chapter, flip through it and read all the headlines first. Get a sense of what you are about to read. This alone will help you concentrate better when you are reading. Because you have been given a snippet of what’s ahead already, your brain will be looking to fill in the gaps and get the whole picture. A brain that is looking for something is more likely to pay attention.

Skimming the material first helps you connect the dots quicker, especially if you are reading faster and skipping the fluff.

 

4. Read like a Fighter Pilot

Aviators don’t navigate the airspace lying back with a bag of chips. Relaxation doesn’t lend itself to alertness and focus.

Reading should be done in a similar fashion, especially if you want to get through material quickly and remember it. Sit up in a chair, make sure you have good lighting and clear the area of other distractions. When you’re done, you can kick back with a bag of chips (or artichokes if you’re feeling virtuous now).

Of course, some reading is done for relaxation, especially fiction. By all means, go ahead and relax while you’re reading, if relaxation is your aim. But if you are reading to gain knowledge, then take it seriously.

 

5. Read like a Movie Producer

Does Spielberg read every script that lands on his desk? I doubt it.

Does he frequently give up partway through a script, once he realizes it’s not going to be his next big Block Buster? I imagine so.

It may sound obvious to give up on a book if it doesn’t interest you. But I know many people who persevere through books they hate, simply because they feel like they must finish what they start. Or worse – they give up on the book partway through, deducing they aren’t good readers because they abandoned an unengaging tome.

It’s the author’s job to engage you. What resonates with some people won’t engross others. Possibly I’ve lost a few readers already, but I’m not going to assume they weren’t good readers. This post just wasn’t their bag.

If a book hasn’t captured you’re attention in the first 30 or so pages, be parsimonious with your attention span and drop it. There are millions of books in publication, surely there is a better one out there for you.

Of course, this advice doesn’t help if what you are reading is mandatory – say, for a college course or to prepare yourself for a meeting. But in these cases, rules one to four will cover your back and help you cope with unstimulating material.

 

6. Read like an Artist

An artist practices his or her craft daily, trying out different mediums and subjects. Reading in short doses every day can help you get more proficient at it. If sitting still is not your thing, try an audio book. They say multitasking is generally not very effective, but in this case, I beg to differ. Many of the books I have “read and re-read”, I have done so whilst washing the dishes, exercising the dogs, or driving long-haul to the prairies (you’ll understand this well if you’ve ever driven across the prairies.)

I have given six suggestions to make reading easier for you and, in turn, more enjoyable as well. If you are serious about reading like a pro, or just want to get better at it, here are two books I recommend:

Remember Everything You Read: The Evelyn Wood 7-Day Speed Reading & Learning Program by Stanley Frank and 10 Days to Faster Reading by The Princeton Language (Abby Marks-Beale).

Though I have no inclination to read books with freakish velocity, both of these books have helped me improve my reading tenfold. They helped me reader much faster (though not technically at a “speed-reading” rate, I admit), focus better, retain more, and be more discerning with the information that I take in.

This has profoundly improved my research practice, especially when time is short. Try them for yourself, and see if they can improve your reading experience.

What are your reading conundrums? Do you like to read or avoid it whenever possible? What are you reading right now, or what would you recommend other ADDers read? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Focus

Opportunity Knocks: Catch Up on the Life You’ve Missed Out On

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get back all the time you’ve wasted in your life? Imagine what you’d do with the days, months, even years!

It feels like time speeds up as you get older. Having lived more life, you become acutely aware of how each moment of life can be (has been) savored or squandered.

The older you get, the less time you have ahead of you. This creates an urgency to use it devoutly. While you can afford to waste time in your youth, doing so only causes a delayed side-effect of mid-life regret.

That kind of time-grief isn’t limited to middle age.  In fact, existential crises can happen at any time in your life.

 

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What do I want to do with my life?

 

These are the “crises” of youth. At some point, though, we get a pretty firm grip on the answers to those questions. We know who we are and what we believe in. We know what we want to do with our lives, except for one thing…

It hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

And that’s frustrating as hell. Not to mention depressing. And frightening!

What if your ledgers are full of wasted, frittered-away time?

What if opportunity seems to have vanished from your life, and “potential” is nothing more than a holy grail you’ve given up on?

So many of us have major gaps in our timelines. Youth gives us a liberty we don’t recognize until age takes it away – the chance to do so much more than we did. Instead, we have holes in our resume of life experience, a gaping parity between what we’ve accomplished and what could have been. If only we’d known how to motivate ourselves and take time more seriously…

There is no rewind button. You can’t get that time back. But before you strain your neck in the head-hang-of-sorrow, consider this:

Who’s to say all that time was really wasted?

You’re here now, aren’t you?

Don’t assume that all the opportunities you missed out on were necessarily ones you should have seized. Opportunity may knock, but it may also be an axe murderer. It’s a damn good thing you didn’t answer the door.

Okay, let’s say it wasn’t an axe murderer. Let’s say it was the guy from Publishers Clearing House. It came to your door with a giant check, inked with more figures behind the dollar sign than you can count fingers.

And you didn’t answer the door.

Yeah, that was a dumb-ass move. But what are you going to do about it? Never answer the door again?

Would you ostracize every other opportunity in retaliation for the one that got away?

Of course not.

Opportunity knocks more than once in a lifetime. It knocks every day, in fact, but it may look different each time.

You can’t get all the wasted years back. You can do more with the years you have left. This moment – right here and now – is your opportunity.

This moment is your opportunity…

To worry less about what other people think. Nothing wastes time like the sanctions we impose on ourselves when we live life to appease the scrutiny of others.

To try out that thing you’re afraid you’ll fail at. Successful people have failed more times than the average person. If you’re discontented, maybe it’s because you haven’t failed enough to succeed yet.

To let go of regret. The one that got away may not have been the right one for you after all. Even if it was, it’s gone. Stop rueing that. Open the door to something else.

To get clear on your values. Figure out what’s really important to you. Maybe some of your wasted time was attributable to uncertainty. If you don’t know what’s really important to you, how can you begin to know where to invest your time?

To redefine success. Maybe you haven’t lived out your dreams or achieved success in your lifelong goals. Unless you’ve been in a coma, you have achieved something. Maybe you raised kids or did some charity work. Perhaps you traveled a bit or were a good friend to someone. Whatever you have done, you must realize that those things are just as important as the goals you haven’t achieved.

To let go of expectations. Sometimes we don’t answer opportunity’s knock because we’re certain it won’t work out. But how do you know for sure? Life isn’t one long journey, it’s a series of paths. Sometimes you have to travel the arduous ones to get where you need to go.

To cut out the crap. Nothing that is important and worthwhile is a waste of time, even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. The lessons we learn along the way are as invaluable as the destination itself. BUT a lot of the things we do routinely are disguised as important, when all they really are is busy-work. Get clear on why you are doing whatever you are doing, and stop doing it if it’s not all that important to the bigger picture

To open yourself up to possibilities. Every day is a chance to start again. Live, laugh, love more. Make time for something you usually pass by. Take a new route to work. Do something silly. Relax. Let go. See every day, every moment, as the right time to make things better – for yourself, for the people in your life, for the world. It doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes, the most meaningful opportunity is the one you take to be in the present moment and accept it as it is.

Do these things, and you can quickly make up for the life you’ve missed out on. Though it’s not formulaic, all of these things will help you waste less of your precious time. Once you take out the worry and the fear of failure, and you cut out the crap and let go of your expectations; you redefine what you see as an opportunity because you know your values and you see the endless possibilities for a life well-spent, you only have one thing left to do:

Open the damn door!

(And now over to you – what would you like to “catch up on” in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!)

Productivity

An Oath of Fulfilling Productivity (What Will You NOT Do Today?)

It’s been a busy summer. Like every summer, the days have slipped past me faster than the plummeting price of oil.

I love having the kids off from school. No lunches to pack, no early morning alarm bells (for them, anyway). No arguing over what to wear or when to go to bed. Just pure, blissful, organic, moment-to-moment living.

I treasure these stolen moments with the kids, to laze around and (yes, I’ll admit) watch Vat19.com videos on Youtube. It’s guilt-inducing that I allow them to pollute their minds with pointless tripe, but redeeming to find communion over a shared sense of humour.

Admittedly, there have not been enough “stolen moments” like these. (I count stolen moments as extra moments to do out-of-the-ordinary things that can’t be done within the confines of your normal schedule).There have been even fewer quality moments doing things of substance and value. Because, like I said, we’ve been busy.

Work, business, blogging and website building. Basement renovations, deck building, hardware shopping and garbage dump deliveries. New puppy, summer parties, sleepovers and play dates. Garage sales and grocery shopping. Carpet cleaning and yard clean up (like I said – NEW PUPPY!). Company from afar and from across the road…

All the things that occupy the stolen moments supposedly called “free time”.

And yet with all the busyness, it’s hard not to focus on what hasn’t been done. It’s easy to feel unfulfilled.

Yes, we have a new deck – but it’s overshadowed by the proliferating weed-monstrosities overtaking the garden. The neighbours must hate us.

Yes, the basement is now finished after twelve grueling months, but the spot-washed carpet is a mere homage to the cleaning that remains to be done. What the company must think!

Yes, the kids have had fun with so many of their friends and the puppies have been exercised and fed. But what none of them have had is enough of me. Because, you know – the new deck, the basement, the company and ++ more.

I started out the summer with a master list of everything I wanted to accomplish during these respite months. What I forgot to include was list of everything I didn’t want to do. Being happy and productive is as much about what you won’t do as it is about what you will do.

So with a month left to go, time is of the essence to make that list right now.

My Oath to Fulfilling Productivity

  1. I vow that however I spend my time, I will do so by being fully present and in the moment with that activity. When I am working in the yard, I will work in the yard. When I am with the kids, I will be with the kids. I am one person, with one my mind. I can’t split my body into two people, so why should I spilt my mind?
  1. I promise that I will give equal time to activities of substance and productivity. Guilt will not rob me of fulfillment in either. I need to spend quality time with my family and I need to get things done. These needs are not mutually exclusive and they both deserve my attention.
  1. I assert that I will let some things go. Busyness will only be allocated to activities I endorse as valuable, regardless of how others may perceive me. So yes, the garden will remain overgrown. I am busy with other things this summer, and that’s nobody’s business but mine.
  1. I commit to making productivity a by-product of fulfillment, rather than the other way around. Getting things done is not important activity in and of itself. On the other hand, fulfillment as a precursor to any activity lends itself to greater focus.
  1. No matter how busy I get, I will always make time for stolen moments. In fact, I will get myself busier by making more of them. Renovating or yard work can be interrupted to laugh and love more freely. Work and business can be punctuated with impromptu cuddles and smiles and silliness. Company can be stalled or sent home sooner than anticipated because nobody should get more of me than my family does, and nobody should get be more of my family than me.
  1. Before I engage in any activity of productiveness, I will start with a clear sense of a good-enough outcome for that moment. Aiming for a “finish” often means other important things (i.e. family) get relegated to second place in pursuit completion. Finishing is mot more valuable than balance.

You can make more money but you can never make more time, warns Randy Pausch. But you can make more of the time you have by choosing to spend it in fulfilling ways, even if that means learning to find your busyness more fulfilling.

I know that if I took more time to write this post, I would certainly think of at least a few more oaths I would like to make. But for now I am practicing “good-enough”.

I’m interested to hear what oaths you would make to create more fulfilling productivity in your life, and more specifically – what you would start “not doing” in order to achieve it. Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Mindset

Injecting Yourself with Patience

Impatience is a hallmark trait  of ADHD. It’s also the ugly sister of many of our other challenges.

For example, impulsiveness is, in part, related to impatience. We have trouble waiting to act. Instead, we react. We are restless because we are impatient with right now. We are disorganized because the next thing is more compelling than following through on the last thing. We interrupt because we are too impatient to hear what the other person has to say. And so on.
They say patience is a virtue. It’s really a skill. One that is cultivated over time, with repeated practice. That’s not to say that impatience is always a bad thing. It can activate you and prevent you from stalling. Patience won’t help you put out fires, but it will ensure you don’t wander off before they’re fully extinguished.
How do we get more patience when it seems so contradictory to the way we naturally operate? Most of us realize the benefits patience brings to our lives and our relationships, or at least the hazards that a lack of it afflicts.
But doesn’t learning to be patient require a bit of… patience?
My research indicates that yes, it does – usually. I’m curious though. Is there a way we can inject more patience into our lives… right now?
Injections are given to ill people for a variety of reasons. Two of those reasons are that 1) there is a need for the medication to take effect quickly or  2) the effects of the medication need to last a long time. So how can give ourselves a series of “patience injections” that will act quickly and, cumulatively, will have a lasting effect?

1. Conjure Your Saint

Do you know anyone who seems to have the patience of a saint? Or, can you imagine what you would act like if you had the patience of a saint? Most people have an ideal self in their head, one they only wish they could live up to. While judging yourself harshly against this ideal will only make you more perturbed with yourself, having a vision of your equanimous self can train you to respond patiently more often.

The most important part of cultivating patience is regular practice. Not all of that practice has to happen in the real world. It can happen in your head too.

Stoicism practice has its devotees starting off their day by contemplating everything that could go wrong. Simultaneously, they envision themselves being okay with whatever goes wrong and coping just fine. They also decide to love whatever happens – amor fati – because the good, along with the bad, are all part of one’s path.

If you visualize yourself coping patiently with your usual triggers, or just accepting whatever happens, your subconscious will feel better-prepared to deal with in vivo stressors.

2. Wear Your Halo

Once you’ve done some visualizing,  put  yourself into a situation in which you usually feel uptight. Connect yourself to the memory (because memory can also be assigned to imagined situations) of yourself acting patiently despite the triggers. Imagine that you are wearing a halo of patience, that allows you to act in alignment with that vision.

If you’re feeling particularly inspired, try donning an actual halo (aka a hair band, cap, etc) to symbolize your intention and remind you to act patiently.

3. Pay Your Penance (Practice)

You don’t have to feel patient to act patiently. If you have ever vented anger without restraint, you’ve probably experienced the phenomena of working yourself up.  The more you rant, the angrier you get.

The opposite can be true with patience. The more patient you act, repeatedly over time, the calmer you will feel. Of course, this is only true if you also teach your mind to be patient as well (see number 4).

There are lots of ways you can teach yourself to become patient by practicing frustrating tasks. In pursuit of Stoicism practice, one author suggests you get in the habit of doing menial tasks in a more challenging way. He uses the example of doing unimportant tasks with your non-dominant hand, like opening doors, opening jars, shaving your face or legs, combing your hair, etc, with your non-dominant hand. Try it for a few days.

 

Exposing yourself repeatedly to these kinds of innocuous frustrations can help build up your frustration tolerance in a gradual but impactful way.

4. Talk to Your Spirit

Impatience is not just an ADHD trait, it’s a human trait. We just have a lot of it.

It’s completely normal to feel impatient at times. But just because you feel impatient doesn’t mean you have to endorse those impatient feelings. When you’re feeling frustrated, recognize it – notice where the feeling sits in your body, take a deep breath and allow yourself to release the tension.
Remind yourself that the impatience you are experiencing is just a feeling. And like all feelings, it will pass. In fact, every moment passes, no matter how you are feeling. The only thing that is permanent is the impermanent nature of everything. Recognize this, and you’ll notice how impatience is really just a colossal waste of time.
Time is passing at its own rate, no matter how hurried you are. You might as well imbibe each moment as if it were a gift sacred, because it is. Being patient allows you to experience the gift each moment of your life brings to you, even the ones usually fraught with frustration.
What makes you impatient? How have you learned to become more patient over time? Let us know in the comments below.
Growth

The Academy Award Experiment for Better Performance

 

Have you ever really seen yourself? I don’t mean checking yourself out in the mirror as you shave in the morning or try on a new outfit. I mean:

Have you ever really looked at yourself? Like – watched yourself, as you go about your business in a normal day?

I suspect not. Most ADDers are not keen observers. Sure, we’re great at noticing new and unusual things. We pick up on seemingly irrelevant details or quickly draw lines between dots, to find connections that other people don’t see. In some situations, our ability to observe these kinds of obscurities is an asset. It can certainly lend to creativity and divergent problem-solving.

In general, though, we are not great observers of the mundane and ordinary. Unfortunately, most days tend to fit this description. It’s why we repeatedly misplace keys, start multiple tasks but finish none, or show up late after trying to fit in “just one more thing”. We don’t observe our ordinary selves.

And that leads to poor performance or – at best – performing below our capabilities. Poor performance can show up anywhere – during tasks at work or at home, during conversations, during self-talk, even.

It’s common to have difficulties recounting the events of our days to family members. We know that we were busy, but we can’t really say why. On the outside it appears as if we accomplished nothing.

Wherever we are in the world, we’re never really there. And more often than not, that’s how things get messy. Have you ever left a toddler unattended for 10 minutes? When you come back to the mayhem, he’ll act as if he has no idea what happened. It’s a mystery how all the books ended up on the sofa, the lamp got knocked over, or the soda got spilled… on the ceiling.  He really doesn’t know – it was so 5 minutes ago!

Sometimes, we are kind of like giant toddlers. Life gets out of control because we aren’t really supervising ourselves.

So let’s say that, in the pursuit of better performance or just having less stress in your life (perhaps by eliminating the need to clean soda off the ceiling?), you started to supervise yourself a little bit better. How exactly would you go about doing that? Doesn’t that involve paying better attention? And isn’t paying attention difficult to begin with?

The answer to those questions are yes, and yes.  It does involve paying better attention, and attention is scarce.  But… it’s also abundant when things are interesting.

We know that our brains are hardwired towards new and interesting things. Maybe you, in your ordinary day, are more interesting than you think.

So, for the sake of experimentation, and in the spirit of curiosity, I suggest you try paying attention (aka supervise yourself) in a way that you have never tried before.

In Neuro-linguistic Programming, there’s a little trick you can use to detach yourself from emotionally charged situations. It helps you adopt a more objective perspective of the situation. It’s called The Observer perspective. When you adopt The Observer perspective, you see yourself from the outside.

What if you tried to observe yourself in an ordinary moment in your life? Imagine yourself as an actor or actress in his or her own life. Wherever you are in that moment becomes the stage. Whatever you are doing becomes the scene, and your awareness becomes the audience.

In this kind of perspective (though it sounds a bit kooky), you become both the actor and the audience at the same time. Of course this requires a little imagination, but essentially, what you are trying to do is to see yourself from the outside, as you are going about whatever it is you were doing. Breaking it down to the nuts and bolts, what you are really doing is witnessing yourself.

I admit, it sounds a bit odd as I write it out. But let me make it simpler. All this actor/audience viewpoint does is to give you another tactic for finding more presence and thereby improving your performance, with almost any task.

People with ADHD don’t naturally witness themselves. We bounce around from moment to moment, being extremely busy but completely unproductive because we don’t see ourselves being pulled around at the mercy of distracted and tangential thinking and ungoverned impulses. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the multiple things we are doing, or lost in the multiple thoughts we are thinking, that we can spend an entire day being extremely busy but accomplishing nothing. This is the essence of a less-than-stellar performance. In fact, it’s kind of a doozy.

With a little supervision, though, we find it easier to keep on task or to take a thoughtful and insightful change of direction, if we assess that we need to change our performance. Watching yourself in action, as if you are your own audience, is one way of supervising yourself. And it will help you to notice details – such as when you are starting to get off-track – that you would otherwise be oblivious too.

Through the “audience perspective”, you become a more informed Director. You can direct the actor to making changes that will enhance his or her performance. Without feedback from “the audience” and a director’s supervision, your effort might be sloppy or lack lustre. Try adding this novel perspective, however, and you might find your efforts become Academy Award-worthy.

At the very least, it certainly makes the ordinary day a little more fun and interesting. Have you ever tried this technique? Let us know how it went!

Mindset

What Do You Hate about ADHD?

I recently finished reading 10 Things I Hate about ADHD (Plus 10 more) by Bryan Hutchinson. In case you haven’t heard, I recently made Bryan’s list of top ADD blogs, which I am (super) proud of. Check it out here at ADDer World.

Now before you assume this post is merely a gratuity for the honour he bestowed me, let me snuff out your suspicion. I have read several of Bryan’s previous books and enjoyed them immensely. Quite simply, Bryan is a funny writer. Plus, he is a very generous person who has his given a lot of his time to the online ADHD community. He has a way of making people feel like they have found a friend in him, and that shines through in his writing.

If there was an adjunctive reason for me to review his book (apart from the fact that I enjoyed it), it would be this:

We (ADDers) have been misunderstood for most of our lives. Sometimes, just feeling understood – like somebody else “gets” us – can be a more powerful than many years of therapy. And its certainly better than the ass-kicking we give ourselves. 

If there was one book that could bring you face-to-face with your ADHD personified, this book would be it. Bryan, as always, does a fantastic job of bringing ADHD to life with his witty prose. Are there laugh-out-loud moments in this book? You bet. And also some cringe-worthy ones, but then – haven’t we all had more than our share of those too?

10 Things I Hate About ADHD is concise – a perfect read for the impatient mind. But don’t be fooled by its brevity. Its impact is far-reaching in its objective to show us we are (definitely) not alone in the crazy quirkiness of our ADHD lives. Each of the 20 things he mentions are things that drive me crazy about ADHD too. I won’t spoil the book for you (go get it here!), but I’ll bet they are the things that you hate too.

I spend a lot of time writing about acceptance and embracing the positive side of ADHD, so it’s hard to admit to the things I hate about it. Nevertheless, there ARE things I hate, and I wonder if you hate them too?

I hate the restlessness. I hate how, at times, NOW is never good enough. I am always reaching for the next thing or eagerly pursuing the next moment rather than being in the present. Hell, I can’t even have a good time without wondering what is going to happen when the good time is over. (BTW, when is this post going to be over? I was ready to start painting my basement door three paragraphs ago!)

I hate not being able to transition. I hate when I am really into whatever I am doing, but have to stop. It violates all the tasks I do afterwards. All I can do is perseverate on getting back to that thing I was doing before. Likewise, I hate it when I have no perseverance. My kids would tell you that hanging out with me is a kind of playtime speed-dating – we do lots of things together, but nothing for longer than 12 and a half minutes.

 

Lastly, I hate the impatience. In fact, I can’t stand one more second of life with impatience! No one understands the ills of waiting like an ADDer. Our minds run like the bus in the movie Speed – if you take your foot off the gas for one second, the whole thing is going to blow. And if it does, its taking everyone else with it!

Those are my top three, but I am more curious about you. What are the things you hate the most about ADHD? Or, what things have you learned to stop hating over the years? Tell us all in the comments below. But please hurry up, I can’t wait a second longer for your reply because I have other things I need to move on to! 😉

Mindset

The Joys of ADHD and the Risks of Being Normal

 

Most of us have spent our entire lives feeling broken.

We grew up knowing something was wrong with us, even if it at the time we didn’t know it by its four-letter acronym. We’ve spent years, even lifetimes, trying to get normal. We’d have been better off to escape Wonderland on the tail of a tardy rabbit. That would have been just as realistic.

What I’m saying is this:

If you are still trying to become normal, you need to wake up. There is no Wonderland. There is no normal.

Why Embrace the Joys of ADD?

Yes, 8 out of 10 kids may be able t0 sit still in class. Not all of those 8 will pass those classes with flying colours though. 8 out of 10 people don’t lose their keys every single day. But not all 8 of those will have tidy homes. 8 out of 10 people don’t interrupt in conversations. But not all 8 out of 10 are great conversationalists.

All of the things that make up our ADD-selves, the part of ourselves through which our ADD traits manifest themselves, those are things that other people (who don’t have ADD) also experience. Lots of people are frequently late. Lots of people are incredibly disorganized. Lots of people are long-winded interrupters who seem to have no point to their stories.

Just because we have all of those things, we are told we have ADD.

But let me ask you this: If a tree falls in a forest, does anybody hear?

Or put another way: if an ADDer is put in an ADD-friendly environment, do they still have ADD?

Let’s imagine I sent you on a little vacay for a couple of weeks. I left you on a deserted island, with only a spoon, a tarp and a box of matches to aid your survival. Because I am a wonderful travel agent, I also informed you that there were wild beasts from which you would need to defend yourself whilst simultaneously searching out a food source. Then I left.

Would your ADD hinder you in any way during your stay?

Think about it. You have no itinerary. You don’t have to awake at any set time, and there is nowhere you have to be. You have no home to maintain, no items to lose but the clothes on your back, and no one expecting you to remember the shopping. There is no TV to distract you. It’s just you and the elements of nature. Your duty is to survive and enjoy whatever the day may bring.

Would ADD get in your way AT ALL?

How might it help you?

People with ADD are often quick to react. They are frequently distracted by all the stimuli in the environment which, in this hypothetical environment, makes them a “scanner”. It’s pretty useful to scan the environment frequently when you need to watch out for predators and seek out your prey. Hyperactivity wouldn’t harm you in anyway either – it’s quite useful to be constantly on the move when you need to survive, or so I’ve learned from the Walking Dead anyway.

If you still can’t see what I am blatantly trying to tell you, let me encourage you to think of it from a different perspective. How useful are the skills of sitting still, listening in class, being neat, tidy and organized and punctual when you are running for your life (or at least for your stomach)?

Yes, of course, it’s not a real-life situation except on Survivor. But that doesn’t change the fact that if you were able to live in a different environment, your ADD might not be a problem at all. Maybe you don’t live on a deserted island, but that doesn’t mean you have to conceptualize yourself as the problem, rather than the environments modern society allocates us to live in.

You know, it’s only been in the last 100 or so years that kids were forced to sit down and learn the same standardized curriculum in a group of thirty same-aged peers. We think that’s normal. But if the world is tens of thousands of years old, and we’ve only started teaching our kids that way in the last century, in my books – that makes school abnormal. It may be the way we do things currently, but it’s not the way we have always done things and it’s very unlikely to be the way we will always do them.

Yes, the world has seen an explosion in ADD diagnoses. I don’t think it will always be this way. If Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind has anything to say about it, I’m right. You should go read that book (or listen to the audio).

There are plenty of things that the ADD mind is adeptly built for. Like creativity, and innovation. Like chaos management and crisis resolution.  Like firefighting and emergency response. Like, like, like….

You see, when you look at things from a “broken” perspective, you assume that you need to fix something that is wrong, when nothing is wrong at all. It is what it is. When you celebrate what is good about that thing, you find a place for it.

That’s not to say that ADD doesn’t have its disadvantages, of course it does. But there are a lot of hazards to being a genius. And many hazards of being frugal. And also many hazards of reclusive or self-restricted. We don’t have to think that those things are ALL BAD though.

I happen to think that there is a place in this world for us ADDers. Thom Hartmann, author of The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child, agrees with me. He’s a pretty smart guy, so you should believe us both. Even if you don’t agree, at the very least you must accept that having ADD isn’t all bad, all of the time.

Research shows that ADDers have a higher tendency towards creativity. They also suggest that ADDers are frequently drawn to intense, high-demand and high-risk careers such as entrepreneurship.

You may not be one of those people. You may be, like so many of us, stuck in a career that is ill-suited to your energetic, associative, divergent thinking and need for constant stimulation and frequently changing environment.

It’s a lot easier to feel bad about being in the wrong place than it is to feel about being the wrong person.

I don’t have a simple solution to this. Try as hard as you can to find a better job for yourself. But in the meantime, try as hard as you can to make your job fit you.

The point about celebrating ADD isn’t to stand on top of your roof top and shout into a megaphone how wonderful you are. That tends to draw the wrong kind of attention to yourself and may lead to an all-expenses paid trip to a psychiatric facility.

However, celebrating your differences can have real advantages. People who celebrate their differences aren’t limited to ADDers. With the change in the way we think about “normal”, the idea of normal becomes a more and more obscure concept. Once upon a time, the only so-called normal people were white heterosexuals, with husbands who worked 12 hour days and smoked cigars, while their wives baked bread all day and their children played kick-the-can.

C’mon. Normal is so last century. But even last century…

Albert Einstein was not normal. Thomas Edison was not normal. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were not normal.

Normal never changed the world.

The Risks of Trying to Be Normal

The strengths of ADD are inherent in their challenges. Abundant minds tend to be scattered. Energetic people tend to have a hard time sitting still. And quick-reactors tend to be impulsive at other times. It’s just the way it is.

But there is more to this point than accepting it’s okay not to be normal. You can never get to where you want to be – to get the most out of life – when you are trying to work towards a false ideal.

Sometime, you might get to where you wanted to be. You may get very, very close to normal. And in the process, you may lose everything that was wonderful about you as you were.

I know this first hand.

I will never profess to be normal but I can say that I got very close to acting like a normal person on a routine basis. I got to the point where I was never late. But it usually meant that I was a harried mess trying to get out the door, shouting and badgering the kids to hurry up. I stopped making impulsive decisions and “winging it” most of the time. Instead, I was always thinking about next steps, appropriate courses of action, and reasonable expectations. I lost the ability to be spontaneous.

I became an automaton of efficiency. I was the family Border Collie, herding them all day long.

I learned to keep my environment neat and organized. But I became dependent on it. I couldn’t function in a disorganized environment. I spent so much of my time keeping things in check that I started doing less of the creative stuff. I daydreamed less. Which meant that I seldom had any ideas at all, let alone good ones.

I became very dangerously close to not having ADD anymore. Though it would never go away, I came close to shoving it in to remission. It required herculean effort to be normal. So much so that I lost my way. I actually caught myself wishing I could be more ADD again.

Life was certainly more chaotic with full blown ADD, but it was also a lot more fun. Though at times it was frustrating, I enjoyed living in my head and having interesting ideas. Sure, there were many projects that I never finished. But without my ADD brain, there were also fewer ideas and the projects that I did take on all tended to be very mechanical and lacked flare.

I couldn’t keep it up, being someone who I wasn’t. The pendulum, they say, swings both ways. It seems that my pendulum had to swing completely in the other direction, before it could come back to the middle ground in a reasonably feasible way.

Now, I am living in what I call ADHD Integration. Its where I am able to take the parts that work for me and keep them, while managing the parts of ADD that don’t work for me. I don’t want to give the impression that I can turn it on and off, but rather that I have the ability to switch gears when I need to.

The whole point is that I was extremely unhappy when I wasn’t letting myself be ADD. I was functioning better on the exterior, but I had lost a core part of myself and failed to fulfill my needs to be creative, expressive and spontaneous.

Embracing ADD does not mean that you just let yourself be late, disorganized or dysfunctional in many areas of your life. But don’t try so hard to not be ADD that you lose everything that is wonderful in the process. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Some of the most interesting people I know have ADD. I also know many interesting people who don’t have ADD. The difference is that the people who don’t have ADD don’t walk around feeling broken because they don’t fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants. They fit in to the world but that doesn’t make them better people. It just means they’re better at fitting in.

People who don’t fit in have a place in this world. The shoes you have to fill may not be comfortable but no one said life was going to be comfortable.

Embrace who you are and what you have to offer the world. Be yourself. Manage ADD by all means, and don’t let it interfere with your happiness, but don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking you’d be happier without ADD in your life because trust me, you won’t.